The European Union has imposed measures against a number of Russian state and public figures and entrepreneurs, including Alisher Usmanov, founder of the iron-ore company Metallovest, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

‘‘Alisher Usmanov is a pro-Kremlin oligarch with particularly close ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin.”

Spokesperson for the EU council

Usmanov has had his assets frozen by the EU, as a result of Russia’s attacks on Ukraine and the ongoing military conflict. In a public statement, the EU council said: ‘‘Alisher Usmanov is a pro-Kremlin oligarch with particularly close ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin.”

It added that the Uzbekistan-born Russian citizen 'actively supported materially or financially Russian decision-makers responsible for the annexation of Crimea and the destabilisation of Ukraine'.

As well as holding large stakes in Metallovest, Usmanov also controls mobile phone operator MegaFon, and previously owned a minority stake in Arsenal, investing in 2007 and growing it to 30% before selling to the Premier League club’s current owner, American Stan Kroenke- whilst remaining a major sponsor.

In his early career, Usmanov served as director of the Foreign Economic Association of the Soviet Peace Committee, an organisation which co-ordinated peace protests against wars or acts of militarisation by Western countries, but in 1980 he was convicted of fraud and ‘theft of socialist property’ and subsequently served six years of an eight-year prison sentence. This conviction was quashed in July 2000, nine years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, by the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan.

Following the sanctions, Metalloinvest published the following statement:

‘’We consider the sanctions against the founder of Metalloinvest ungrounded and unfair. The restrictive measures imposed by the EU against Alisher Usmanov are of a personal character and will not affect Metalloinvest. Mr. Usmanov owns less than 50% of USM Group’s parent company and does not control the Group's enterprises. Thus, the inclusion of Alisher Usmanov in the EU sanctions lists does not extend the effect of the relevant sanctions to USM’s companies. Metalloinvest continues to carry out business as usual, fulfilling all obligations to its employees and partners.’’

The EU said its council had ‘added 26 persons and one entity to the list of persons, entities and bodies subject to restrictive measures in respect of actions undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine’.

A regulation update in the Official Journal of the European Union said Usmanov was among the 26, and added that the restrictive measures included “an asset freeze and a prohibition from making funds available to the listed individuals and entities”, while ‘a travel ban applicable to the listed persons prevents these from entering or transiting through EU territory’.

'‘I believe such a decision is unfair and the reasons employed to justify the sanctions are a set of false and defamatory allegations damaging my honour, dignity and business reputation. I will use all legal means to protect my honour and reputation.’'

Alisher Usmanov, founder of Metalloinvest

Usmanov said in a statement in response to the EU’s move: ‘‘I believe such a decision is unfair and the reasons employed to justify the sanctions are a set of false and defamatory allegations damaging my honour, dignity and business reputation. I will use all legal means to protect my honour and reputation.’’

The decision to freeze Usmanov’s assets is part of an ongoing conflict between international organisations and Russian elites following Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine, with associations such as the International Olympic Committee, UEFA, and FIFA calling for bans on Russia’s participation within future sporting events.